2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

'Bleeding Heartland' writer will continue to seek access to Iowa House after credentials were denied

Iowa political blogger believes she was denied access due to being critical of GOP

(File photo) The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, photographed on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(File photo) The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, photographed on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A political blogger who believes she has been denied media credentials because of her criticism of Republican leadership says she will continue to seek access to the Iowa House and press bench.

“The House chief clerk has no grounds to deny me access to resources available to other reporters covering the Legislature,” said Laura Belin of Windsor Heights. She has written more than 7,000 blog posts, including hundreds about the Legislature, since 2007 for Bleeding Heartland, a website she runs that focuses on Iowa politics.

“The House credentialing policy is a charade to conceal a viewpoint-based restriction on my press freedom,” said Belin, who has been credentialed by the Senate.

In rejecting Belin’s application, Chief Clerk Camine Boal said the House policy, which is modeled on guidelines used by the U.S. congressional press galleries, was applied “without consideration of content.”

The House has credentialed about 95 members of the news media this year. They includes reporters from newspapers, television and radio, as well as photographers and videographers from outlets across Iowa.

Without credentials, reporters, bloggers and the public have access to the House gallery as well as audio and video feeds of floor debate. Like the public, uncredentialed media also have access to committee and subcommittee meetings.

Credentials are limited to “bona fide correspondents of repute,” according to the guidelines. To be credentialed, a person must establish they are a paid employee of a news organization “whose principal business is the regular dissemination of original news to a broad segment of the public.”

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Members of news organizations issued credentials are more accountable because they answer to a news director, editor or publisher, Boal said. Belin is a “personal” blogger not unlike any member of the public, she said.

“Press freedom was never intended to apply only to salaried employees of news organizations,” Belin said. “Hamilton and Madison were not paid to write the ‘Federalist Papers.’ The framers of the U.S. Constitution meant to protect materials like Thomas Paine’s pamphlets.

“I devote my full-time professional efforts to gathering, writing and editing the news content and commentary distributed by Bleeding Heartland,” Belin said.

Bleeding Heartland has a “certificate of existence” as a limited liability company from Secretary of State Paul Pate, Belin said.

“Much like the owner of a family farm limited liability company, I am entitled to any and all distributions and profits from Bleeding Heartland LLC, such as reader contributions. Consequently, I meet the remuneration criteria of paid correspondents,” she said, adding that students issued press credentials may or may or may not be paid.

Belin also noted that credentials have been given to writers for two publications that have paid lobbyists at the Capitol. And at least one credentialed reporter has appeared in paid political candidate advertising, she said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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